When Flyleaf announced that they would be recording a new album, the internet exploded with the question of how their new vocalist Kristen May would hold up against original vocalist Lacey Sturm – this may have also occurred when the band announced the departure of Sturm and that May would be replacing her. It was a contentious topic as Sturm held a very important place in the hearts of numerous Flyleaf fans, seeing as she consistently flew the flag high for females in alternative metal with her ability to rival numerous male bands. Flyleaf’s debut album went platinum upon its release – that isn’t easy to do.
Between the Stars serves as the album for May to show what she is made of, and for Flyleaf to show that they are still the same band they have always been. Granted, the band has lost the post-grunge feel that their earlier work had but that actually works in their favour, as it results in them emphasising their alternative metal sound. Besides that, the band has fallen out of favour with numerous fans due to the belief that they have “lost their way and are “not Christian enough”. If any of those fans are reading this review, and are interested in the album, then you’re going to be a bit disappointed. Between the Stars sees the band trying to shake off the oppressive manacles of being only labelled as a Christian band. They opt for the choice that numerous Christian bands choose: to incorporate themes that transcend numerous ways of life and are not limited to being relevant to the Christian faith.
One of the most glaringly obvious examples of the band dealing with the discontent of many of their fans – and especially of May dealing with people saying she is not Christian enough despite stating on numerous occasions that she is – is on the song “Head Underwater”. It is a ballad-style alternative rock song laced with a delicate piano melody, rhythmic drums and the faint stabs of distorted and whining guitars. This all accompanies May’s truly phenomenal vocals (more on that later) as she delves into lyrics that deal with what people say about her and how that affects her. Lyrics like “every word they say cuts deeper than a knife” and “they don’t know a thing about me yet the wolves still cry out” seem to reflect directly on coping with what people have said about her. The beautiful part of the song comes after the bridge, as she quite graciously delivers an outstanding message of hope and support while showing everybody who doubted her that she is still Christian enough.
Now for May’s vocals. The difference between her and Sturm is that Sturm had a tremendous range where she was able to shift from grungy punk-styled vocals to soaring high-pitched vocals. This allowed for incredibly interesting progression in songs as they could shift from aggressive to peaceful and calm in a blink of an eye. May, on the other hand, lacks that vocal range but compensates by having a truly beautiful voice that puts one in mind of a choir of angels singing (if angels sang in hard rock bands). However, this does detract from the aggression that Flyleaf can often show. The lead single off the album “Set Me on Fire” still clings to the same aggression that put Flyleaf on to the map, and May is able to pack quite a punch with her angelic voice.
Something I have always loved about Flyleaf is their understanding of progression in an album, and also how they tend to spread the fast-paced songs all over the album instead of having them at the beginning and the slower songs towards the end. Between the Stars has its share of slow songs thrown in between the heavier songs with “Sober Serenade”, “Head Underwater” and “Blue Roses” providing that ballad style that we so dearly love. Songs like “Marionette”, “Platonic” and “City Kids” are some of the heavier songs on the album that truly show Flyleaf working through the alternative metal paces – especially when the screams kick in at the end of “City Kids”.
If anything could be said about Between the Stars, it is that Flyleaf are back. The departure of Sturm may have been a momentary hiccup for the band, but May captains the helm with great skill. She shows herself as being perfectly capable of meeting the vocal standard that Sturm laid down. Between the Stars shows a new direction for the band and it is a direction that I really like – especially if it gets them down to South Africa in the near future.